Nicole. Tell us about who you are.
My name’s Nicole Grodesky and I’ve been surfing for more than 20 years now… which is crazy.
I was raised by my mom. We bounced around a lot and landed in a small, beach community in St. Augustine, Florida, and that’s pretty much where my life changed. We moved to the beach when I was nine years old, and I this surfer guy almost ran me over. (That’s right Josh, I’m talking about you.) We ended up going to school together and today we’re still friends.
He inspired me to be a surfer because I saw him and thought, “I’m gonna do that.” He always teased me at he bus stop and made fun of me as I was learning. But I got good pretty quick and then one day he stopped teasing me at the bus stop.
Tell us more about how you got into surfing.
I had a friend who lived at the beach and I remember her being like, “Let’s learn how to surf,”and I was like, “Aw man, surfboards are expensive.”
She said she had some in the garage at her house, so we started using those. I rode her stepbrother’s board which was way too small for me, but we still went out every day. One day, I marched into A Street Surf Shop with 40 dollars and bought my own board. Then another friend of mine, after some probing, sold me her wetsuit which was all black with hot pink sleeves for 15 bucks.
55 dollars later, I was up and running.
One thing led to another and I started competing. My first contest I actually lost and I cried and it was terrible. Then I started winning and getting sponsors.
Surfing has taken me to places I never dreamed that I would go. I wouldn’t be here, sitting right here in California. I wouldn’t know you. It’s honestly brought so many cool people into my life. It has given me so much and it taught me so much.
What role does surfing play in your life now?
It’s definitely not as mch of a focus now like it was in the past. It’s still an important part of my life but it’s become less of a priority right now.
What’s that funky-lookin’ board by the door?
That’s my soul patrol board. When I’m on a soul patrol and I’m out just to feel the flow and not out to shred the gnar, that’s the board I use.
Tell us about the importance of women in surfing and women being strong people.
Women in sports in general, not just surfing, is a really important topic. I’m an athlete. I’ve always been an athlete. Sports for anyone is really important because it teaches you teamwork and gives you confidence. Our grandmothers weren’t given the opportunities we’re given today. We owe them to take advantage of that and pave the way for other females right behind us.
Sports are an expression of the self, and so it’s extremely important that everyone has sport in their lives in some way or the other. Being connected to the outside – that’s what I love about surfing. It’s so cheesy, but I always feel like life is like the ocean in that you never know what’s about to happen. Life and the ocean jut throw stuff at you. The waves come and you have to read it right and act quickly. If it’s crowded, you have to navigate the crowd and be strategic, and life’s like that too. You’re positioning yourself all the time. You’re constantly getting in just the right spot to catch the right wave.
A little cheesy, but it makes sense.
All the effort and everything I’ve put into surfing over the years is what I’m now putting into my career. I’m trying to position myself and set myself up so I can just cruise and have a nice ride — A good time in my life.
What was the question again?
You nailed it. Tell us about your photography.
This goes back to what inspired me – back to surfing, but not in the way that you probably think. It goes back to surfing in the way that it introduces me to people I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and in this case it brought the only other female surfer in St. Augustine into my life. And I thought, “WHOA, another one? Cool.” I had little sister syndrome.
Anyway, her cousin came down with a camera and was doing all this cool stuff– taking shots when we were just hanging out. Then we saw the prints of them and they were completely amazing – just from hanging around. When my friend started doing it I followed in her footsteps. For the longest time, I thought I’d stay away from photography and surfing because surfing was my creative outlet and I wanted photography to take me out of that comfort zone. Eventually, the two merged when I started traveling with surfing. I’d have my camera with me and I thought, why not take a few photos while I’m here? Then I started getting articles published.
I just realized that I wanted to tell stories, and so it made sense to revolve around surfing because it was such a big part of my life. I always wanted to capture different moments of the surfer that everyone can relate to. Whether it’s the duck dive — that feeling of the quiet, solitary and almost peaceful moment when the wave rolls over you — to that moment where you’re hyped up and about to jump up on your board as you see the line form, or the moment when you’re walking home from an epic day of surf and the sun’s setting. How awesome would that be to have that photograph on your wall, and to experience those moments every time you look at it? we live for those moments. So I try to capture them.
You have a handful of cool skateboarding photos too. Do you skate?
I wanted to produce images that were inspiring for other women and people in general. I’m not so much of a skateboarder, so I don’t know if I can capture those special moments the same way as I do with surfing. But I felt a need to cover the women in skateboarding and I’ve always just been a fan and a supporter, and I’ve always been someone who roots for the underdog.
Women skaters are underdogs – let’s be honest. They’re a small niche community. For somebody to be told they can’t do something and still come out and do it and do it well is incredibly inspiring. So that’s why I’m always attracted to the female skate team. Plus I skated a little bit. I’m not going to the skate park and dropping in or anything like that, though. I respect them for what they do and think it’s gnarly – and they have a lot of respect for surfers too and they think what we do is gnarly. So it’s this mutual respect and appreciation. Its pretty awesome.
Surf Feminism – can you tell us more about it?
Sure. I’m pretty sure the term was originally was coined by Cori Schumacher. It kept coming up in a group I was part of in San Diego and something in my head said, “surffeminism.com.” I was sure no one had that domain, so I went on GoDaddy and sure enough, it wasn’t taken. It cost me $2.99 a year and so I bought it. Of course I bought it. I bought it with one ‘f’ then I bought it with two ‘f’s’. The logo was designed by Lauren Callahan and we worked together to create what we envisioned.
As far as projects that I’ve worked on, this one came together and just seemed like it was supposed to be. I get a lot of interaction on Facebook since I created a closed Facebook group. All the women who I invited — they don’t all know each other. Some do. But I said, “Hey, I created this and I invited you because you’re all influential women in this space. Feel free to connect and introduce yourself.”
No one introduced themselves! So I’ve decided I will be the one to make these introductions. But before I do that, I’ve just been sharing stuff with the group. It’s funny to see my friends from all around the world at different points in their lives commenting and still sharing their passion. For example, the founder of East Coast Wahines — the biggest and longest running all women’s surf contest ever — is super active on it. She’s a legend, straight up, and now she’s a mom in Seattle and she’s got two awesome daughters, and she’s commenting and it’s all just out of passion and fun. It’s really cool to resurrect these friends and bring them together.
What kind of feeling does being this connector give you?
It makes me feel really awesome because it’s exactly what I want. I’m trying to foster community. I want women to trust each other and to share with each other and not be afraid to say what they want to say. I just hope that the conversation keeps going in a positive direction. I’m not trying to be not super aggressive. The whole point is to share stuff and just say, “Hey, what do you think?”
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m experimenting with how I’m sharing my media. As a publisher and a journalist for a long time, I feel like the medium you get your information out is really important. It’s not just telling stories and creating a community but it’s how publishing works and how you can engage your audience.
As a publisher and journalist, you’ve done your fair share of interviews. How do you feel about my questions which are just like, “Hey, go ahead and talk now”?
Haha, I actually think those are some of the best interviews. For the most part, people love to talk about themselves. That’s why I feel like interviewing’s typically pretty easy.
Thom McElroy, the founder of Volcom, came to speak the other day at my company. Our founder asked him one question, similar to the first one you asked me, and he talked for at least an hour. He just told us his story, and I was totally on the edge of my seat the whole time. I had one question I wanted to ask him and he answered it.
What was the question?
I wanted to know where the idea for the Volcom Stone came from.
What did he say?
He loved geology. He loved geology and found this old drawing shoved in a book in a library from, like, the 50s, of a diamond. He traced it onto a napkin and took it back to his drawing board. I wish I had his whole talk on video. It was epic.
Last question for you: What would you say to someone who’s just picking up a surfboard for the first time, and maybe feels intimidated or scared?
I can only really speak to surfing, but I would say you have to be in it for the right reasons. You gotta be in it not to be cool or whatever. You have to do it because you want to surf. Yeah, people make fun of you. I got made fun of a lot. They saw me go over the falls but a couple years later, I’m surfing better than they are.
I would tell them that becoming a really good surfer takes at least seven years. There’s a magical thing that happens at year seven, I feel like. You gotta put a lot of things together and it finally all adds up. You gotta get strong. You gotta learn to read the ocean.
That’s another thing — I spent a lot of time staring at the ocean and watching other people surf. When the waves were small, I’d longboard. When they were pounding on the shore, I’d bodyboard. I would tell them to not be afraid to try different things because every board is a new experience.
You’re a total shredder while also having a bigger perspective about surfing. Thanks for sharing that with us.
At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. You’re having a lot of fun if you’re shredding of course, but don’t be afraid to try other things and other boards and other spots.
I think the biggest thing about surfing is just know you’re going to fail. A lot. Know you will get water up your nose. You’re going to get rashes. You’re going to be really sore. It’s not as glamorous as people say it is — but that’s like everything. It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding. There’s nothing like that awesome session at the end of the day when you’re fried and and you drink two cold beers and pass out because you’re so burnt from the long day. So keep all that in mind when you’re underwater and holding your breath and you don’t know which way is up. Whenever that does happen, just follow your leash.